Thanks to the Ronald McDonald House Charities and the zoo, children with disabilities who visit the Oklahoma City Zoo will now have a playground that allows them to play and eat alongside their able-bodied friends and family. The new playground cost $23,000 to build and is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The playground was made possible by a $10,000 grant from the Ronald McDonald House. The remainder of the needed funds was raised by the Oklahoma ZooFriends and the zoo itself.
According to Susan Adams, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oklahoma City, the goal of the playground was to provide the playground experience for kids with disabilities and their families.
“As a parent with three kids, I’ve spent many hours pushing them in a swing,” Adams said. “These parents will also be able to have the experience of pushing their child in a swing where they might otherwise not have had that opportunity.”
The playground features a swing that children in wheelchairs can use, a jungle gym that allows children to pull themselves through the bars with their arms while in a wheelchair, and a picnic table that has part of the bench removed so kids with wheelchairs can sit shoulder-to-shoulder with their friends and family.
Tom Buckner, the zoo maintenance supervisor, traveled to other playgrounds in the area with equipment designed for disabled children to help decide what features the new zoo playground should include. The wheelchair accessible swing is one of the most exciting features.
“They can roll their wheelchair onto it, lock it down and chain it, and they can actually swing,” Buckner said. “It’s not a big swing, but it’s enough to give them the sensation that they’re doing something.”
“Because of the number of attendees at the zoo and the number of families that would benefit from having an installation like this, we believe it was a very worthy grant,” Adams said.
The Ronald McDonald House Charities has also sponsored several educational programs at the OKC Zoo, including the popular ZooFriends for Kids program.